Jean and Scott Adam of Marina del Rey lived a life many would envy, until it was cut short Tuesday by a band of Somali pirates. On their yacht, Quest, they had spent most of the last decade sailing to exotic locales and were on a trip from Thailand to the Mediterranean with another couple, Phyllis Macay and Robert Riggle of Seattle, when their boat was intercepted off the coast of Oman. All four were shot to death Tuesday by their captors after negotiations with U.S. naval officials for their release apparently broke down.
Pirates plying the seas off Somalia have been a scourge of international shipping for years, but this week's slayings mark the deadliest incident yet involving Americans. In response, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on foreign governments to contribute more toward the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia. Solutions to that country's piracy and governance problems are elusive, but the peacekeeping effort backed by Clinton isn't working, and U.S. policy toward Somalia could stand another look.
Tempting as it is to call for more naval involvement, it's clear that a purely military approach won't cut it. To avoid the U.S. 5th Fleet and other international warships plying the waters near Somalia, pirates are simply ranging farther afield; the seas between Somalia and India are too vast to be effectively patrolled. Meanwhile, every effort by the United States to intervene in Somali affairs since 1993, when the Clinton administration's attempts to subdue Mogadishu's warlords ended in the catastrophe chronicled in the film "Black Hawk Down," has backfired spectacularly.